Jakarta. Extremist Islamic ideas, such as narrow-minded views of what "jihad" really means or calls to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state, are easily spread on social media in Indonesia.
Often, the targets of this propaganda are young people.
Researcher Adjie Suradji identified many such cases in an article published in Kompas newspaper on Sept. 28 last year.
He mentioned the attack by by 22-year-old Sultan Aziansyah on a police station in October 2016.
A bomb was detonated at Oikumene Church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, by 33-year-old Juhanda in November 2016, who got help from three teenagers aged 15, 16 and 18.
The most shocking case involved 12-year-old Hatf Saiful Rasul from Bogor who traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State (IS) then tragically died in an air strike.
A survey by Mata Air Foundation and Alvara Research Center released in November 2017 claimed almost 20 percent of high school and university students supported the idea that Indonesia should become a caliphate – and many of the survey's correspondents said they were willing to join a jihad to achieve it.
These are the reasons why Yogyakarta's Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation (CISForm) has launched a series of animated short films for the internet-obessed younger generation – to provide counter narratives for these extremist ideas.
"We make animated short films that offer a different point of view or interpretation of Quranic verses or the Hadith [Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and actions] that have been regularly misinterpreted by extremists," CISForm director Muhammad Wildan said during a launch party for the films at Ibis Hotel Tamarin in Central Jakarta on Wednesday (18/04).
CISForm, an organization under the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN Sunan Kalijaga), originally launched the films in Yogyakarta two months ago.
The Jakarta launch was held in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University.
Production for the films started last year. Around 20 titles have been released on CISForm’s YouTube channel so far.
Wildan said his team will post one video every three days until they reach their goal of 40 titles.
Each film ends with a character reciting a Quranic verse, or a Hadith, or an ulema giving an explanation on the subject in question.
One of the titles clarifies common misconceptions around jihad, telling viewers going on a jihad does not mean you have to be a suicide bomber or take the often deadly journey to Syria.
Jihad, which literally means "to struggle" or "to strive" can be as simple as studying hard for your exams.
Other films remind viewers that Islam is not against the idea of democracy.
Extremists often accuse the democratic Indonesian government of being "taghut," or tyrants who set themselves up as false Gods.
But the real meaning of taghut is actually abusing one’s power.
Anyone can become taghut if they abuse power to their own advantage – anyone from state officials convicted of corruption to extremist leaders leading on innocent young people to do their dirty work.
Some of the other short films deal with more everyday subjects, such as whether or not the niqab head scarf is compulsory or whether or not non-Muslims should be allowed inside a mosque.
CISForm has also published two full-color comic books titled "Si Gun Pingin Jihad" (Gun Wants to Go on a Jihad) and "Rindu Khilafah" (Longing for a Caliphate) in 2016.
The comic books were distributed in limited quantities in schools across Yogyakarta.
'No Dalil = Hoax'
The short films' launch was attended by Nurshadrina Khaira Dhania, a 20-year-old former IS volunteer who returned from Syria last year.
Dhania went to Syria with her extended family in 2015 to live under the IS caliphate.
She told audience she had convinced her family to go to Syria because of online propaganda released by IS she saw on social media, which promised a beautiful life where Muslims leave peacefully with each other under Islamic teachings.
But what she saw in Syria was not the promised land.
Dhania and her family were placed in a filthy dorm where people get into nasty fights for the most trivial things.
The IS soldiers turned violent on these "jihadists" to punish them. Everything was contrary to the Islamic teachings Dhania knew.
Though IS had said men won't be forced to fight in Syria, the male members of Dhania’s family were sent into detention for refusing to go to battles.
Dhania’s family was condemned as "munafiq," or hypocrites.
She and her family managed to return to Indonesia last year after losing all their money twice to people smugglers.
Dhania said she has now been given "a second chance."
Dhania agreed that the internet is the main source of information for people her age.
"Counter narratives to extremist ideas can take any form, from comics, films to vlogs. The important thing is that the message has to be hard-hitting," she said.
Dhania said the content in CISForm's short films could still be improved.
"The films are good but they should have more dalil [proof]. Like what people say now, 'no picture = hoax,' young people today demand proof. The films can contain more Quranic verses or hadiths, more concrete proof so we're comfortable sharing them," she said.
Wildan said it would be quite a challenge to slip in more religious tenets into Instagram-style one-minute videos.
Nevertheless, he said "this is a new challenge for us to teach Islam in a light-hearted way to young people."
"These films will not teach you everything, but they can at least lead people to ask for more explanation about Islam from their ustad [teachers]," Wildan said.